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Saturday, April 17, 2010

iPad, pt. 3: Three Nuts to Crack

Because I am determined to push the envelope with this iPad, I have continued to chip relentlessly away at the few things the iPad doesn't do, or doesn't do very well. There are three nuts I keep trying to crack on the iPad: solid note taking in the format I prefer to use, printing files directly from the iPad, and the ability to open and edit files from cloud-based services such as DropBox, Google Docs, MobileMe, or others.

Note Taking
Update (6/28/2010): Since posting this entry Pages has been updated to support menus from the landscape orientation, making it easy to toggle bullets on and off.  Also, QuickOffice Connect for the iPad has come out, and offers similarly easy bulleted list formatting as well as great cloud-computing connectivity.  I would say those two program have fully cracked this nut for me.

When I take notes in a meeting I like to use expanded bulleted list format. Main agenda items or topics are left justified and may be a heading or a short paragraph. Under each agenda item, I like to use bullets, though each bulleted line may be short or several sentences long. Visually, I like a line break between each agenda item/topic. As a result, I tend to favor note taking applications which sit in between a dedicated outliner and a word processor. Of paramount importance to me is the ability to find and learn quick keyboard commands for toggling bulleted lists on and off, and for indenting bulleted items in (or out), so I can take notes without taking my eyes off the conversation or presentation.

Evernote's desktop client gives me this ability, and because it is Evernote, it comes with all the cloud-based goodness the iPad needs to be truly effective and powerful. Unfortunately, the current version of Evernote for the iPad, while beautifully configured to match the iPad's layout and style of operation, doesn't yet include those additional editing tools. Plain text input is all you get, no font or formatting tools. If your note taking style can live with that, Evernote is still my top recommendation (for all the other reasons that make it such powerful tool). Until they get around to adding in some basic formatting tools, though, I keep looking for something else.

In a previous post I mentioned Carbonfin Outliner. This is a solid basic outliner with straightforward outlining tools, fairly easy keyboard navigation, and the ability add notes to individual outline elements. I can make this work for me by creating the agenda outline first, and then using the notes option to incorporate additional free flowing text in and around the outline structure. However, because it is a pure outliner, it defaults to check box style outlines and there is no keyboard-only way to toggle out of check box mode on the fly. Also, when using the menu buttons to shift an outline element in or out, the keyboard focus is lost. You then have to double click on the line you want to continue typing on, which gives it focus and again brings up the keyboard. Finally, it only exports in plain text or OPML format, which is ideal if you want to get your content into another outliner, but ugly and useless if you want to get your notes into much of anything else. I give the application kudos, though, for being a very solid outliner and for having an easy way to export files via email, even if I don't like the file output options.

I have tried pretty much every other note taking application available in an iPad version and nothing solves my primary want to be able to quickly and easily incorporate bulleted lists into text note taking. Bulleted lists are, in fact, a surprisingly hard to find feature in any iPad editor right now. Pages, of course, offers bulleted lists, but since you have to first rotate the ipad into portrait orientation, select a menu and tab within it to select the list style you want before you can resume typing, (and there is no easy way to indent or outdent list items), it is only useful for applying a style to text already written.

There are many note taking applications to choose from for the ipad already, and some of them have unique features that might suit other folks note taking needs better than my preferred style. Some offer the ability to finger sketch along with type text, a couple will record audio while you take notes, several can incorporate pictures, Web content, and more. In general, though, when using the iPad interface, the more things you can do with an editor the more tapping, fingering, and moving things around you will end up doing. None of which is especially good if you are trying to quickly capture information in a meeting, class, or conference.

In the end, I think I will need to content myself with either using the Outliner application or taking notes in such a way as to avoid bulleted lists (or take notes in Pages and apply bullets to sections of notes after the fact), at least until someone updates their software to provide the editing tools I want.

Update (6/28/2010): Steve Jobs says native printing is coming to the iPad, so this nut will eventually be cracked, though nothing really solves this need well yet.

There are a number of third party applications which purport to provide some degree of iPad printing. Most will set you back around $10, and none of them provide anything approaching native print driver based direct printing. The most common approach is to provide an application which can open and read files you have created or stored on a network/cloud drive, and then to print them using shared printing services through a networked computer.

AirSharingHD is the one I finally settled on. It can connect to a number of file storage sites using built in APIs or presets, but doesn't yet have the ability to connect to files stored in DropBox or Google Apps. What it does do, though, that I find quite handy, is present itself as an "open file using..." option for files attached to email messages (in both the built in email application and via Gmail's Web interface). This allows those files to be printed directly to any local or networked printer available to any computer on your network (that you have configured to share printing through). No software needs to be installed on the serving computer. This makes it very easy to get up and running. And since you can email files to yourself from most iPad editors, it is also a quick way to print files when you need to.

AirSharingHD doesn't allow you to print directly from applications, so you cannot print email messages, Web pages, or things of that sort. There is at least one application that does indicate it will do this, but it requires additional software to be running on a hosting computer.

So it is possible, under some circumstances, to print from an iPad, but it is a limited functionality and one that requires access to and through another computer on your network.

Remote File Access
Update (6/28/2010): QuickOffice Connect and Dropbox have both released updated iPad versions of their software and both meet this need very well.  Dropbox now allows you to download and edit any files you have stored there using any applicable iPad apps you have installed.  QuickOffice Connect gives you "office" file editing (word processing, spreadsheet, presentation) for MS Office, Open Office, and iWorks files, connects to all the major cloud computing systems (Google Docs, Google Apps, Dropbox,, MobileMe, etc.), and even allows you to copy and move files between systems.  This application totally cracks this nut!

For all my dinking around, I really haven't made any additional progress on this want. Dropbox is read only on the iPad, whether you use their iPhone application or their Web site. They indicate they are working on an iPad release that will be especially good, and that it will be out soon, but no release date or feature list is available. I am going to pin my hopes on this coming release because DropBox is such a great service in all other respects.

I gave MobileMe a test drive, thinking it would have better integration with the iPad for functionality like this. There is only the iPhone version of the iDisk application and, like DropBox, it is read only for files from the iPad. It is also a lot more expensive and felt, if anything, less integrated. Since my calendars are all Google-based, my contacts are also already Google-synced, and Safari's bookmarks are also in sync through iTunes, the other features MobileMe offers are not sufficiently compelling for me to shell out $100/yr. The ability to find, lock, or wipe a lost iPhone or iPad would be nice, but not at that price point.

Google Docs and Google Apps cannot be created or edited on the iPad––end of story (though you can edit cells in Google spreadsheets, but that process is far from easy to use). Until Google or some third party company provides a workaround or update to meet this need, there is no way to make this happen that I have been able to discover.

QuickOffice Connect does this for the iPhone, and you can run the iPhone application on the iPad, but it keeps quitting on me. If they release an iPad version of this software, it may be the ticket. It works well on the iPhone for those times when you want to edit or create a Google file on the go, but the iPhone is a pretty small form factor for doing much of this kind of work.

One application that at least makes accessing and viewing files from almost any cloud based storage system easy and clear is GoodReader. It connects to Google Docs, Google Apps, Dropbox, and will even connect to and present email messages that have file attachments from your various email accounts, all from within a reasonably easy to use application interface. No document editing, but this is a highly recommended and inexpensive (99-cent) piece of software for accessing all of your cloud based content for reading purposes. [Aside:
I just discovered there is no cent symbol available on the iPad keyboard.]

This is as close to solving these three issues as I have been able to get. If your justification for getting an iPad includes any mix of the three uses I describe here, be aware that these limitations exist. I think it likely that each of these functions will be available fairly soon (though printing may always be a limited option for a device like this) but they are not here yet. DropBox is hinting at an expanded iPad client soon, Evernote has done a great job getting a great iPad client out quickly and has said they intend to " the hell out of..." the iPad, and Google has already created a unique and rich iPad version of their mobile Web interface for email, so it can be reasonably hoped that we will see more innovation from each of these companies. Just be aware that none of this is promised, yet.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

iPad, pt. 2: OS & Applications

About that OS and multitasking:
Now that I have had a bit more time with my iPad I thought it would be useful to share some application-specific thoughts. After all, the iPad runs Apple's iPhone OS and that "limits" it to the 150,000 or so applications you can download and install on it. This is approach has been a brilliant success for mobile devices like the iPhone and iPad Touch, but some have questioned whether it is too limiting for a device that attempts to approach laptop functionality.

As I mentioned in my first review post, the OS does have its limitations and I have felt those limitations a bit more here than on my iPhone. The common phrase used to describe the main limitation is lack of multi-functioning. In other words, you can run more than one application at a time (there are a couple of exceptions, and some background tasks are allowed, but these are few and far between). This is an issue, to be sure, and one that Apple is going to address in iPhone OS 4.0 (coming out this summer to the iPhone and this fall to the iPad). There are times when I wish I could leave Pandora running while using other applications, for example.

However, this issue isn't as bad on the iPad as it would be on a laptop or other computer. The iPad's instant-on and application launching speed makes switching between applications nearly as quick as alt-tabbing between running applications on a computer. Most (not all!) applications save their last state, so hitting the "home" button and selecting the app you want to open up brings you back to where you left off in it. As a result, there are only a few circumstances where multitasking would make a significant difference. Music or audio from any source other than the iPod application (which can run in the background), having more than two or thee applications to hand for, say, research writing.

In my meeting testing I had to present information that was coming from several places: email message body, files attached to a message, and Evernote. It was easy enough to have the email message open in Mail, the tagged files at hand in Evernote, and the file attachment open in Pages, and switching between those applications was quick and easy. Each of them preserves the state of the last session, so no subsequent navigation was required. Really, it wasn't much different than alt-tabbing through the applications on my laptop. Had I needed multiple email messages open simultaneously, or multiple documents open in Pages, though, it would have required more maneuvering than on a laptop.

That said, the limiting factor here is more related to most applications inability to open more than one file window at a time than the lack of multitasking in the OS. Saved state is an important trait for applications in the instant-on world of the iPad, but finding ways to present multiple documents/files at the same time from within a single application may also become a new application standard to seek. In my experience so far, most (like Evernote, Mail, Outliner, and other writing applications) do a pretty good job of giving a list (and sometimes preview text or image showing content) of multiple files/documents while viewing one at full size. This comes pretty close, and makes finding and switching between documents within the application quick and easy.

Finally, on this point I also concede that we are talking about a usage case which isn't really what the iPad was designed for. I have been describing behavior associated with doing work (office or personal) on a computer/laptop, and the adaptations we have become accustomed to for that kind of work. This isn't what most consumers will do with an iPad as they sit or move around the house of an evening, reading a book, watching a movie, showing off photos, checking online, answering email, or checking in with Facebook and Twitter. Those of us who are interested in stretching the current usage case for the iPad need to be aware that we are looking outside the current design goals of the product.

Thoughts about specific applications:
First, applications which have not been upgraded specifically for the iPad are quickly becoming irritating to me. iPhone applications can be run on the iPad in their native size (which looks really stupid) or doubled to full-screen size. The latter state results in fuzzy out-of-focus text and interface tools. Usable, but not great. Fortunately, most of the applications I use most are already available in iPad flavors or universal versions which run on both iPhone and iPad at their respective aspect ratios and with features/interface customized to each).

As others have noted, you don't get the clock, stocks, or calculator applications on the iPad. The new iBooks application is also not pre-installed (though is a free download from the iTunes App Store). These omissions are probably due to the many users who have complained that you can't delete the built-in applications and the fact that there are better similar apps out there for download or purchase. Applications I have found especially well done on the iPad and which are now part of my regular-use stable:

Evernote: I've already raved about this one, so I'll leave at that. Evernote is a vital part of my workflow and having such a strong version for iPad is great. My wish list for Evernote is for the full editor feature set, especially the lists tools. I miss those a lot when taking notes on the iPad!

SketchNotes: a great note-taking notepad that allows both keyboard and finger-drawing, making it ideal for notes where illustrations or whiteboard sketching is part of the equation. Works very well, yet is very simple to use. Export (email) as PDF makes it useful beyond the iPad.

Pages: while I have some issues with the interface here and there, this is a very well done adaptation of full word processing for the iPad form factor. The fact that menus are only available when in portrait orientation, yet most of us will keyboard in landscape orientation, makes quickly adding things like bulleted lists to a page a complicated and workflow-interrupting process. We need something akin to keyboard shortcuts in some of these applications!

Outliner (Carbinfin): A very easy to use (and free) outliner that I will use until Evernote or Pages allows me to quickly create bulleted lists in notes. Export is limited to text and OPML, RTF or PDF would be more useful to me.

Digits: a great adding machine style calculator with running tape and nice large buttons for the iPad. Basic calculator functions, but works very well and the inclusion of a tape on-screen (displays in a column on the left side of the screen) is very welcome.

Utilities like Dictionary and WeatherBug have been nicely updated for the iPad. WeatherBug is my favorite weather app for iPad now; very rich and detailed informational interface.

Remote Pro is a great remote for the iPad and makes using my iPad as the keyboard and mouse for my entertainment center very easy. Many application-specific settings are built in, so you can quickly toggle between them and get customized screens optimized for each

On the news front: Reuters News Pro, NY Times Editor's Choice, BBC News, NPR, and USA Today all have beautifully adapted iPad applications and I recommend all of them for a well-rounded sense of what's going on in the world.

Twitter: I am torn between Twittelator Pad (this being my hands-down favorite on the iPhone) and Twitterriffic for the iPad. Twittelator has a beautiful interface and I find using the various tools and settings much easier. But it doesn't show me how many new messages have come in and it uses more screen real estate for its beautiful layout than for reading. Twitterrific has the cleanest interface of the two for simply reading Tweets and actually doing what most of us do with Twitter most often. I find it's interface, otherwise, needlessly confusing with lots of hidden drawers and screens. The last couple of days, though, I have been using Twitterrific more regularly on the iPad.

Facebook: this application has not been updated for the iPad yet. The good news is that the larger iPad version of Safari makes using the Facebook Web site a full-featured experience. So I have added this bookmark as an "application" to my desktop and surf Facebook via the Web rather than the Facebook iPad application.

FeeddlerRSS: finally, a good application for reading Google Reader RSS feeds. Syncs with Google Reader and works beautifully. Much better than the limited Google mobile interface Google serves up when you hit that site with mobile Safari in the iPhone or iPad.

Netflix: fantastic job on the new iPad application and full access to your Instant Watch queue for streaming movies. Need a move when traveling? This is the way to go!

WolframAlpha: what can I say? If you like or use WolframAlpha, the new iPad application is jaw-droppingly rich and beautiful to use.

Pandora: a great updated interface for the iPad, which is better than on the computer, the Web site, or iPhone. I want this Pandora interface everywhere, please!

IMDb also has a great new interface for their iPad application and it works beautifully. Same is true of Epicurious - very rewarding to use.

Instapaper is another application that has made the leap to iPad interface goodness, and makes reading articles saved this way a lot easier.

Apps that are not yet updated for iPad, but which I really wish were: DropBox. It's easier to bookmark and use the Web interface at this point. Much easier on the eyes, though with no local caching of content so it is slower. AT&T myWireless, and the handful of games I keep on my iPhone/iPad (Mastermind, Fox Vs Duck, Five Dice).

Finally, a word about email on the iPad:
If you are familiar with the Mail application on the iPhone or Apple computer, you know Mail on the iPhone. In landscape view it has a handy mailbox list and message pane layout, less so (in my opinion) in portrait orientation. I still dislike having to click back three steps to change accounts, and the coming "unified mailbox" isn't the solution I want (I don't want to mix my personal and work email messages in a single mailbox). I want a quick way to toggle between displayed accounts. Why not a simple "accounts" drop-down selector - it wouldn't be that hard and there is now plenty of screen real estate to use for something to simple.

On the other hand the new Gmail Web interface you get when you hit that site with an iPad is very slick. I would use this most of the time except that I keep running into odd sporadic problems. Sometimes I can't scroll a message; what I can read in the first screen is all of it I can see. Sometimes the keyboard blocks too much of the message window and it is hard to adjust it so I can see more of what I am typing. This is especially true if I need to scroll down to refer to the quoted message while typing my reply.

Both handle file attachments well on the iPad, and both will open files first in a preview screen and the present the option to open the file in Pages, Numbers, or Keynote if you have those applications installed.

So I find I still toggle between the two, wishing each were a little more like the other in one respect or another.

A small note that has nothing to do with applications or OS:
There is a fair bit of confusion out there about charging the iPad. In my first-hand experience I have found that using the wall charger it comes with works best and is quickest. No surprise there. Apple's Web site indicates you can charge it with an iPhone charger, though it will charge more slowly. I have found this does work. Plugging it into a USB port on a computer will indicate that the unit is not being charged, however, under some circumstances this will trickle charge the iPad. If it is not being used while plugged in, the charging capacity of the USB port is enough to slowly top up the iPad's battery. If the iPad is on and being used, then the net charge will be less than the usage drain. Battery life on the iPad, even with heavy use, is amazing, however, so needing to charge at unexpected times is not something most users will need to worry about.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

iPad, therefore I review

Kevin’s iPad Review
Model: 32GB Wifi-only

Why did I buy one at all?
The official justification is that this will totally replace my laptop (once I complete my degree in a few more weeks). That is a new-ish MacBook which will then become my wife's main keyboard, replacing her aging laptop. It's cheaper than replacing her laptop directly, and the more-limited functionality of the iPad should fit my post-degree home computing needs just fine. After all, I still have access to the Mac Mini that's part of our home media center, could leave an account on the MacBook that will go to my wife, and I still have my trusty iPhone, so I will hardly be computer-less.

The unofficial justification, and the reasoning my wife ardently believes is the real justification, is because I wanted one.

Why did I buy the model I did?
A fair question. My goal was to entirely replace my home laptop, once I was done with school. I have my work laptop I can use for work brought home, and I have set up an account on the Mac Mini we use as our media center that I can use to sync and manage my iPhone and iPad. For me, home use is largely recreational, news-related, and e-commerce, and I have found myself using my iPhone more often than my laptop for those purposes, though grabbing the laptop for anything I didn’t want to do on the small iPhone screen. So the iPad seems like a really good fit for my personal needs.

That said, most of my life is cloud-based these days. Music and movies are stored on a separate drive connected the Mac Mini, most (really, almost all!) of my files are in Evernote and DropBox or Google Apps. There is little on my laptop hard drive that needs backing up any more. So a 32 GB drive seems more than adequate for my needs. In fact, so far my iPad's hard drive is almost entirely empty. I’m not putting much music or media content on the iPad, but do want enough room to load a bit on there for travel if the mood strikes me. My iPhone still serves as my primary music system, since it goes with me and plays through the car as well.

Selecting 3G or non-3G was a harder decision, and I went back and forth several times before deciding to go without 3G. Bottom line for me was that I didn’t want to pay a separate monthly fee for 3G service (even the very reasonable fee currently set by AT&T) I will very rarely use with this device. Like my laptop, it will almost always be used within wireless server coverage and, again, I still have my iPhone 3G for those times when I need to go online without wireless. Without the iPhone, I would probably go with the 3G model of the iPad just so I could get connected where-mostly-ever.

What do I like about the iPad?
Almost the entire experience of the iPad. As others have already noted, the machine literally disappears when you use it and it really does feel like holding the Web in your hands. It’s very light and easy to pick up and use, and most of the applications I have used on it are stunning to view and use. There is an organic quality to the way one interacts with the device that is truly unique. It’s a perfect size and user interface blending and I really do believe this is going to change the way most folks use “computers.”

The onscreen keyboard is great, particularly in landscape orientation. I find I run in that orientation most of the time. I can home-row-position type with it as fast as I can with a traditional keyboard. There is a little adjusting to do, though, in an unexpected way. Because it is a nearly-full-size keyboard, the layout is more similar to a traditional keyboard than the default iPhone keyboard. However, it isn’t entirely the same layout. Some characters are visible up front and others are hidden behind the number or shift buttons, like the apostrophe key. It uses the iPhone OS, so autocomplete and autosuggest behaviors are the same, which does speed up keyboarding. So I have had remap my brain and fingers to something between a traditional keyboard and the onscreen layout of the iPhone. Minor adjustments, but they are there. I had initially planned to buy the keyboard dock when it comes out, but now do not think that will be necessary.

I have used the iPad to take extensive notes at an all-day meeting and it worked great. I was able to use it on the table-top, in my lap, and in a variety of positions, which minimizes the fatigue that usually sets in when you take notes all day.

Battery life appears to be as promised. 10+ hours on a full charge with full-out wireless and media-viewing use is, so far, a very comfortable assumption based on my testing over the past few days. I think the challenge with this things is going to be using it enough to run the battery down completely every month or so (as Apple recommends).

The iPad is both small and sleek, and at the same time very solid feeling. It doesn’t feel fragile in any way, though I still worry when I set it down (on its aluminum back) that I will scratch up that surface. Hasn’t happened so far, but I can see that a thin rubber-ish case to protect that surface and to add a little table-top resistance wouldn’t be a bad idea. I have also found that I need a case for the iPad. Carrying it around seems exposed and risky, like it is going to squirt out of my grasp while I walk.

Small application features are great as well. For example, Safari on the iPad allows you to keep the bookmarks bar visible at all times, just like the Mac version of Safari. I wish, though, it had real tabs instead of the multiple pages, which I find tedious to navigate and keep track of. With this device, there is onscreen room to accommodate tabs.

What don’t I like about the iPad?
There are a couple of shortcomings of the iPad that bear consideration, especially for anyone planning to replace a laptop with one, like I am doing.

First, there is a surprising lack of file import/access support for such a handy sized computer. If you plan to do work with this device, be warned that this may be more complicated than you want.

Pages is a good full-featured work processor for the Mac and for the iPad (I use it more than any other on my laptops), but getting files into the iPad for Pages to work with is more of a challenge than I like. You can use iTunes to manually select files from your Mac to import on sync to your iPad (and vice versa), but that’s a cumbersome way to share files in this day and age of cloud-based convenience. Pages on the iPad can save files to both MobileMe and to, but cannot open files from either service/location. DropBox’s excellent iPhone application has not yet been updated for the iPad (it’s coming, they indicate), and it remains to be seen if that version will allow more than view-only on the iPad

You can open files into Pages from Apple’s Mail application, which makes emailing files to yourself the best route for moving files in and out of Pages on the iPad (which can also email files out). It took me a bit of tinkering, though, to figure my way out of what felt like a blind alley while doing this. Because I use my iPad in landscape orientation most of the time, that is the orientation I had files open into in Pages. Pages, however, only presents its menus when in portrait orientation (landscape is for distraction-free writing, I guess). Until I happened to rotate the screen one time, after opening a file from email into Pages, I couldn’t find any way to close the document that I had opened and get back to my Pages file selector. Portrait orientation is your friend here: problem solved.

This brings me to another consideration when using Pages on the iPad. Pages (like most iPhone OS applications) stores all files you create (or import into Pages) within the application on the iPad. It auto-saves your work (there is no save button) as you use it. If you delete Pages off your iPad, you will also delete your saved Pages files. Your only recourse would be to restore from your last iPad/iTunes backup; note that is a complete restore to your last backed-up state, not file-level recovery. Yet another reason I would prefer using cloud-based file storage.

Google Apps is also a challenge to use on the iPad. I have not yet figured out how to get the iPad version of Safari to access the default Web version of Google’s services; it defaults to the mobile version just like on the iPhone, and that limits most file editing options, especially in Google Docs. If I can find a way to log into Google Apps with Safari using the same entry as on my laptop, this screen is large enough to make using Google Docs as viable as on any other computer. So far, that has me stymied. There are some 3rd party applications which purport to provide Google Docs editing, but I haven’t found any of them to be something I would want to use regularly.

The bottom line with this larger file in/out complaint is that the iPad is very much tied to iTunes as the primary means of managing its content. I believe this will change with both OS and application updates, but for now it is a limitation to be aware of. I should also note that these limitations apply to all of the iWorks applications (Pages, Numbers, and Keynote). Also, only Pages allows for export into MS Office compatible file formats, Numbers and Keynote on the iPad do not (they export only in their native formats or as PDF). One other iWorks caveat on the iPad: they do not pack all of the functions the desktop applications provide, including a reduced set of fonts to work with.

Evernote has a beautiful first version of their software for the iPad (which is what I use for meeting notes and project/meeting content and tracking) and, of course, Evernote solves the file in/out issue by being an entirely cloud-based environment. I hope, though, that Evernote will increase support for file attachment support on the iPad (the ability to pass a file to iWorks for editing). As a paid Evernote account holder I can attach all sorts of files to notes in Evernote, and I find this especially handy when I forward Gmail messages with file attachments to my Evernote account for meeting use. On the iPad, you can view attached files within Evernote or you can email the notes (any attachments go with the note) to yourself, then open the attachment in Mail and load them into the appropriate iWorkapplication from there. That works, but it would be much easier if Evernote could pass the file directly to iWork.

Like other iPad users, I have found the wireless reception to be less powerful than on my laptop or iPhone. In brief testing around campus, I had a lot of trouble getting a strong enough connection in some places to maintain a reliable connection. I never could get the Cisco VPN configuration to work for me (though have only done very limited testing), even though it was configured using the same settings that work well on both my laptop and my iPhone. Captive portal wireless solutions may be the best way to go for this device in enterprise settings.

I guess the best way for me to sum up my iPad experience so far is to say that this device is nearly perfect for many home and personal-use Internet services users. It is beautiful and rewarding to use, simplifies the whole experience to the point that users simply need not worry about how their computer works, they can instead concentrate on doing what they want to do. Apple’s integration of their powerful iPhone OS and this new hardware platform creates a new form of personal computer that I think is going to be a big hit and, at the risk of using an over-used phrase, a true game changer.

For computer users who are hoping the slim device will replace most of their current laptop or desktop computer uses, my recommendation would have to be more cautious. With a few adjustments I think it comes close, but there are still some missing pieces that might leave power laptop users frustrated; too many small compromises for enterprise work. This is clearly designed as a consumer product. It can do light work-related tasks very well, but I couldn’t recommend it as a replacement laptop for the workplace at this point.

Student users? I think this will work very well for portable school needs. Taking notes in class, getting things done between classes and on the go, reading digital textbooks, even basic paper writing. I don't think it will be a sole computer for serious students. Too many library databases still use Flash for things like displaying citations (no Flash support on the iPad!), a bit too clunky about file management for peer collaboration yet, the lack of multitasking would make toggling between research and writing painful. But for packing to campus and using on the go, it is a brilliant and light--to-tote tool. I think we can expect to see many of these popping up in our classrooms.

For my use, I think it is going to work very well. I have only had it a few days and am already using the heck out of it: as the perfect wireless remote/keyboard for our media center Mac Mini, for email, surfing the Web, checking headlines, reading RSS feeds, reading books, taking to meetings for notes and Evernote reference, and for simply grabbing, whenever the urge strikes, to check something online.

Any questions?